King County Metro is dedicated to safe, accessible, and equitable transit to support community well-being. In February, Executive Dow Constantine transmitted the Safety, Security, and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) Reform initiative to the King County Council. Metro also communicated near-term actions to improve safety for customers, and our commitment to ongoing communication and engagement.
As previously shared, a recurring challenge Metro faces is the small but impactful number of incidents where customers do not exit the bus when it has completed its route and is set to return to base. Metro’s approach to these riders continues to be guided by compassion and aims to connect those in need of behavioral, housing, and social support with those opportunities.
However, allowing a rider to remain onboard creates safety challenges, expends budget and staffing, and often takes the bus out of service for cleaning or maintenance. Consequently, our communities are denied the buses and transit resources they rely on to get to school, work, and other destinations.
While Metro does not have the resources to fully solve the many challenging issues involved, our goals are to connect more people with resources, increase the safety of our riders and operators, and continue to respect the rights of all who use our services. We began the phased implementation of the following prioritized approach on March 7 and will focus our efforts on the areas where this issue has been most persistent.
For the safety of everyone, bus operators are instructed to never bring a coach with passengers onboard into our busy bus bases. If a passenger is still onboard a bus that has completed its route and would otherwise return to base, the operator opens all the doors and asks riders to exit the coach.
If the rider is asleep or otherwise non-responsive, the operator does not touch the passenger but—if the operator feels safe—will see if the passenger will respond to their voice or to a sound, such as tapping a rail. If the passenger refuses, doesn’t respond, or appears to need medical assistance, the operator contacts Metro’s Transit Control Center (TCC).
The TCC will provide directions to the operator based on the location of the coach and the resources in the field. If determined necessary, King County Metro Transit Police or Metro’s Transit Security Officers will be called. The officers will walk through the coach and again request that the passenger exits. In cases of an asleep or non-responsive passenger, the officers will attempt to wake them up and conduct a health assessment.
If the passenger is responsive and still refuses to leave the bus, the officers will ask them why and provide them with information about services within a three-block radius. Passengers still refusing to leave the coach will be given the choice of leaving on their own or being assisted to leave by the officers.
For customers refusing to leave the bus, Metro Transit Police officers may issue citations to leave. While this is a criminal citation, it will be referred to Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD).
Metro’s values-driven approach is informed by our community members, customers, employees, labor partners, and others. On this policy and across all of our work, we will continue to work with community, monitor data and trends, and adjust and update in support of equity, fairness, and safety.
Thank you for riding Metro.